Just a few years ago, I visited the grave of a dear friend. As I parked our van and made my way toward the grave marker, it started to snow. While I drew closer the grave marker, the snow began to fall harder, and the wind began to swirl around me.
When I arrived at the gravestone, I reached down and brushed some leaves from the side noticing someone else had been there before me. Whoever was there before me placed flowers in the bronze vase and a small Christmas tree stuck in the ground beside the gravestone.
Beside the grave of my dear friend is the grave of his child. His child left this life at the age of six due to a fatal disease. I am sure he, being a Christian, and his child are united in the realm of Paradise at this very moment.
On his son’s grave, there was a deflated balloon and a Christmas tree. When I stood and looked at both grave markers, I could not help but stand and think of memorable times past. My mind was flooded with some many moments.
While standing there, I had forgotten about the snow and the wind; both swirling around me. I could tell that the temperature had dropped since I first knelt to wipe leaves away. When I shivered, I looked up and noticed a picture-perfect day in a cemetery. The snow, the sun and the wind made for a beautiful picture.
Call it a sermon on the mind or too much studying, but my thoughts turned to the resurrection of Christ. I guess my thoughts concerning this sermon came into a broader view while standing in a cemetery. I could not help but think of the women as they approached the tomb of Christ.
What an early morning journey that must have been! Imagine what was going though the minds of Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome as they walked toward the tomb.
- Were they mourning?
- Were they reflecting on the great works of Christ done in their life?
- Were they trying to figure out a way to roll the large stone away from the door?
To have the great advantage of going to the tomb of Christ to anoint Him with spices was a great honor. The spices the women most likely would have brought would have been a sort of aromatic vegetable compound that would have been prepared. (Luke 23.56) While searching through your Bible, you will find that Nicodemus brought about a hundred pounds of spices to begin the burial process of Christ. (John 19.39)
Christ had suffered on that cruel cross and fulfilled the scriptures relating to His death as our Passover Lamb. His spiritual body entered the Hadean realm of Paradise to wait for the entrance of the thief. (Luke 23.43)
When the body of Jesus was removed from the cross, it was taken to the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea. Previously, Joseph had approached Pilate and asked for the body of Christ. Even though Joseph approached Pilate in secret (John 19.18), he was still courageous enough to place the physical body of Christ in his personal, paid-for tomb. (Mark 15.43) Little did Joseph know the tomb would be borrowed.
Through a careful examination of the gospel accounts, you can see while the women were approaching the tomb a great earthquake occurred, and the stone had been rolled away by the angel of the Lord. (Matthew 28.2) Not only was the stone rolled away, the angel of the Lord was sitting on the stone. (Matthew 28.2)
Remember that the Pharisees and the chief priests approached Pilate concerning the burial of Jesus. It is very clear that Pilate had an extremely busy night; first, Joseph of Arimathaea, then the Pharisees and the chief priests. (Matthew 27.55) The Pharisees and the chief priests spent a great part of their life trying to trap Jesus and commit Him to death.
While the Pharisees still called Him a deceiver, they were troubled at His prophetic words, “After three days I will rise.” (Matthew 27.63) I am sure that they feared the resurrection of Jesus. I imagine as fear grew stronger overnight, they approached Pilate with the request to secure the tomb until the third day. Pilate gave the words to make the tomb secure.
Matthew, the tax collector, informs us that the tomb was sealed. (Matthew 28.65) Scholars and historians mention that sealing the tomb would involve a wax seal or clay seal around the stone as it was put in place.
A further indication of the seal might have been the seal of Rome. When the stone was sealed for Daniel, the king used his signet ring to seal the stone. (Daniel 6.17) Some have speculated if a ribbon was placed around the tomb of Jesus as a warning.
Further, the scriptures tell us guards were placed at the entrance. Talk about the fear of resurrection, to seal a tomb of a “deceiver” in a manner such as that could only be because of one reason—the fear of truth!
When the women examined the tomb, they found it empty. (Luke 24.3) For whatever reason, possibly amazement, they may have walked right past the angel of the Lord and entered the tomb. It could have been a shock that such a great stone was rolled away. It could have been the shock of the looks on the faces of the guards.
Remember imagining their thoughts on the road to the tomb, now picture their faces. The man they came to see is gone. Not only was He gone, but also a young man was sitting on the right side of the interior of the tomb (Mark 16.5).
My friends, that in and of itself is great news, but it is not the greatest news.
It gets better.
Paul writes of the definition of the gospel in the letter of first Corinthians. Notice the words of Paul.
“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received. that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that, He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.”
(1 Corinthians 15.1-8)
Paul informs his readers, and us, that many saw the resurrected Christ. Not just one or two people, but many. It is not just Paul telling you great words of witnesses to the resurrection, but Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Remember the road to Emmaus in Luke 24.13-29 or Mark 16.12,13? Jesus was there!
Remember the scene at the table with the eleven in Luke 24.28-32 or Mark 16.14? Jesus was there!
He was there for one reason; He is Christ. He walked the road to Emmaus for one reason; He is Christ.
Once again, remember the words of Paul in his letter to the Corinthians,
“And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!”
(1 Corinthians 15.14-17)
Did you know there is no guide in the Middle East who can take you to the tomb holding the physical body of the Son of God? For that, I am grateful.
I am thankful for the great blessings I have as the result of the crucifixion of an innocent man; the tomb could not hold Him and the witnesses that saw Him. With those miraculous blessings from the Father, you can have a hope that is steadfast and secure in the risen Savior.
I think the words of Paul fit appropriately today,
“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
Christ beat death. He beat death so your death would not be a time of sadness but a time of gladness.
Because of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15.1-8), the Christian’s death is graduation to a higher plane.